The first two days of the of the Italian Open which is officially entitled the Internazionali BNL D’Italia, or, as it is better known, the Rome Masters, has not produced any major upsets bar one, though plenty of interesting results have been posted
In general I think it was a great match, great battle. I stayed positive. I start to feel much better with my tennis by the end of the second set, and the third set. I’m really happy with this victory. Stan Wawrinka
On the Monday for instance, a series of ‘comebacks’ by players returning to the Tour following lengthy and varying periods off court with various injuries, attracted the most attention led by Stan Wawrinka who toppled the 14th seed, 6’11” American, Reilly Opelka, a semi-finalist last year, 3-6 6-7(3) 6-2.
For the former three-time Grand Slam champion, it was his first win in over a year following multiple surgeries on his left foot.
“I was feeling good on the court. Physically I was feeling great,” Wawrinka said. “When you don’t win a match in more than a year, you start to think about it more than what you should and not focus on the right things.
“In general I think it was a great match, great battle. I stayed positive. I start to feel much better with my tennis by the end of the second set, and the third set. I’m really happy with this victory.”
Frustration though for both Dominic Thiem and Borna Coric who crashed out at the first hurdle.
The Austrian former US Open champion fell to Italy’s flamboyant and Roman favourite, Fabio Fognini 6-4 7-6(5) following his return from a wrist injury which required surgery as he fails for a fifth time to post a win.
“I’m really frustrated right now, obviously,” said Thiem. “Things have improved again since Madrid. That’s good. I looked at the stats after the first set on the big screen. Actually they are getting better and better. The first-serve percentage, first-serve wins, second-serve wins actually had better stats in the first set. Just zero out of three break points. I have to play better those close points.”
Croatia’s Coric, who is making his return from a bad shoulder, put up a good fight but lost to Serbia’s Laslo Djere, a qualifier, 6-2 6-7(3) 6-2.
Other results saw Dutchman Botic van de Zandschulp knock out Sebastian Korda of the US 6-4 6-1 and Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic battle past Frances Tiafoe, also of the US, 7-6(7) 7-6(4).
Britain’s Dan Evans also suffered a first-round defeat losing to Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili 7-6(2) 6-2 but Cameron Norrie made up for that disappointment by clearing his opener relatively comfortably 6-4 6-4 against Italian wild card Luca Nardi.
Norrie, seeded 9, had to also contend with a partisan crowd who regularly lifted his 18-year-old opponent’s spirits, especially in the early stages but held firm saving two break points in the first set.
“I need to clean up a lot of errors,” Norrie told Amazon Prime.
“But I was pleased how I turned it around after that start though.
“I came out very, very nervous and very tight for whatever reason. I was just missing a lot of second-serve returns and not playing as aggressive as I would like.”
Norrie found himself 15-40 down when serving for the first set, but two big serves cleared him of the danger. The British No.1 broke in the first game of the second set, keeping hold of the early advantage and wrapping up the win when Nardi went long with a backhand.
World number 11 Norrie, who was beaten in the third round in Madrid last week by eventual champion Carlos Alcaraz, who pulled out of Rome, will play Croatia’s 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic in the second round.
Moving on to Tuesday some of the marquee names were called into action including Novak Djokovic, a five-time champion of Rome, who opened up his campaign for a sixth title comfortably over Aslan Karatsev from Vladikavkaz, 6-3 6-2.
The world No.1 and top seed needs to reach the semi-finals if he is to retain his position at the top of the world rankings. He is also three wins away from reaching the Tour’s 1000 matches won club.
After a tough start to the clay season, Djokovic is clearly finding his form and rebuilding his confidence.
“He was missing a lot of balls today though,” Djokovic said. “He gave me a couple of breaks there in the first and second sets, but I’ll take this win for sure. It’s a straight-sets win against a quality opponent and I’m looking forward to the next challenge.”
And that will be against either the Swiss Stan Wawrinka or his own compatriot Laslo Djere.
Two Canadians got through as Denis Shapovalov, seeded 13 topped Nikolaz Basilashvili 6-4 7-6(5) and eighth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime edged Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 4-6 7-6(2) 6-2 in teir second round action.
“It’s a great win. Great for my confidence to be able to spend three hours on the clay. Very encouraging for what’s to come here and in Paris,” Auger-Aliassime told the crowd.
“I feel good physically. I was able to battle it out with one of the best young clay-court players we have in the game right now. He’s not playing this way by accident. He’s playing really well consistently, so it’s a great win for me.”
Norway’s Casper Ruud (5), and Italy’s Jannik Sinner (10) were also winners as was American John Isner who progresses to meet the third seeded Rafa Nadal on Wednesday.
The biggest surprise of the day was the dismissal of the sixth seeded Muscovite, Andrey Rublev, a quarter-finalist last week in Madrid, who capitulated tamely 6-2 6-4 to Serbia’s Filip Ktajinovic in their second-round encounter.